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An 1897 Visit With Aunt Susan Hawkins Of Logan County

She Recalled The Days Of Her Youth During Slavery

Author Unknown - 1897

"I am 86 years old, and was born at Green Ridge. I have seven living children, and about 40 grandchildren."

"Have you any great-grandchildren?"

"Yes, a right smart of 'em, but they are so scattered I cannot keep up with 'em. I tried to get an educated Negro to make a list of 'em, but somehow I never could make him finish it. Black people are so curious, an' I don't have nothin' to do with 'em much."

The speaker was Susan Hawkins, wife of Cupid Hawkins, commonly known as "Cupe" Hawkins. Susan is a good natured, cheerful, old woman. She is almost blind, but is still able to "get about the house" and attend to her domestic duties. Her mind is clear, and though possessed of no education herself, having passed the first half century of her life in servitude, she has associated with educated white people, has good manners, and uses fairly good language. The house over which "Aunt Susan" presides is a log cabin of one room and a loft, and a comfortable fireplace, in which a log fire blazes in winter and smolders in summers, and before which, winter and summer, Aunt Susan, provided with bread tray, gridiron and frying pan, prepares the frugal, but tempting meals for her family. She and her husband live with their son, Will; the other children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren living in other cabins in the neighborhood. Her cabin is nestled under a tree in the edge of a cornfield, at the foot of a hill and near a grove of large forest trees. It is situated near Gordonsville, Kentucky, in one of the most picturesque sections of Logan County, and about two miles distant from Green Ridge, which has frequently been termed the "Mt. Vernon of Kentucky."

Green Ridge has been the subject of many a sketch, but a few points in its history are necessary to a proper understanding of why now in her old age, Susan Hawkins, is dragged from the seclusion of her little cabin home and figuratively placed before the footlights.

One hundred years ago three Virginia gentlemen, all bearing the name Washington and closely related to the first president, emigrated to Kentucky. There were two brothers, Whiting and Fairfax, and their nephew, John. They settled in Logan County, and Whiting built Green Ridge, where he lived and died, and where his earthly remains were placed beneath the sod just 71 years ago last Monday. Above his grave a simple vault was built, and on it rests a limestone slab, bearing the epitaph. A few hundred yards from the grave may be seen the ruins of Green Ridge, now a pile of rubbish, overgrown with grape vines and peach trees. When built, the house was one of the handsomest and most hospitable in Kentucky. It was frequented by the best people in the state. It stood on the brow of the ridge from which it took its name, overlooking the fertile plains of South Logan, in which Fairfax and John Washington owned fine farms.

Eight years ago the writer made a pilgrimage to Green Ridge, and spent a day in an atmosphere of patriotism and reminiscence. He was fortunate enough to see and talk with Mr. Nelson Lyne and Miss Helen Hawkins, both since dead, and both of whom distinctly remembered Green Ridge in its glory. A few days since when he again made the pilgrimage, the scene had changed but little. The two interesting old people who had entertained him on the former visit had gone to join the courtly old-fashioned gentlemen who once was master of beautiful Green Ridge, and the elegant woman who welcomed the stranger at the hospitable board.

The only person living in the neighborhood, perhaps the only living human being, who remembered Whiting Washington was the old Negro woman, Susan Hawkins, formerly his slave. She is the only surviving member of his household.

Like many of the old Kentucky families the Washingtons became involved in debt, and Susan was sold when a girl to Timothy Lyne, a neighbor. She lived with him and his children and grandchildren, until the emancipation. She was early married to Cupid Hawkins, the slave of another neighbor, who, after that romantic event in slave life, was hired from his master by Mr. Lyne in order that he might live with his wife. This is not strictly in accord with the theories of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" school of philanthropists, but is nevertheless true, as old Susan and old Cupid both will testify. They have lived together ever since, and having long ago passed the milestone of the average human life await with patience the final summons.

"Why do you ask about such old things?" inquired Aunt Susan, when interrogated as to her recollections of the Washingtons. "When I was young we were not as smart as you are now, and its been so long I can hardly remember. My old master was a good man, and Mrs. Washington was a good woman. I remember them well and the children, though it has been so long since I talked about them."

The old woman remembered the home life at Green Ridge, and how the fine old brick mansion looked; how the children used to dance on the flat roof on pretty summer nights; how Mrs. Washington taught a select school for girls, and how she required the girls to run to the spring, half a mile from the house, before breakfast, to wash their faces and get an appetite.

"But at last came Mr. Walker," she concluded. "He was said to be rich and married one of the girls, and after awhile old Missus and the rest went to live with them, and that is all I know."

The Mr. Walker referred to was Judge David Walker, Appellate Court Judge of Arkansas. His daughter, who was a granddaughter of Whiting Washington, married United States Senator James D. Walker.

It may be said that descendants of the Kentucky Washingtons reside in this state and in Tennessee, as well as in Arkansas.

The sons and daughters of the original immigrants from Virginia are still well remembered in Logan County, as courtly and elegant men and women. They were people of fine education and mental endowments and of the strictest ideas of morality and etiquette. Several of the sons and daughters were old bachelors and old maids, who taught school, and to whom many people now living in Logan County owe their education.

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